Former Zimbabwean journalist Precious Tariro Guwira was always a lover of nature with natural talents, but was never in a moment considered crafting as a career path, despite been a source of motivation to young talents on her social media circles for creative space decoration.
That was before she offered a voluntarily service in her church in Mutare, eastern Zimbabwe. She specialised on paper flower designs.
From offering church decoration services I also started beautifying decorating workplaces hotels birthday parties wordings and engagements.
Popular holidays such as Christmas, valentine's Day, mother's Day, independence Day, I've become particularly very busy as much people will need my services
Looking back at my journey of becoming a fool time artisan, I appreciate the ideas of my long-lasting paper works that can save as memories in the heart of individuals who view them.
The dream of becoming an actor son became so clear to the extent of milkweed in my journalism work to pursue a career in paper flower making "she concluded".
All the way the dream is not straight forward as there where some setbacks. I had to make myself to familiarise but the various types of papers that are needed for creating real botanical flowers.
I got amazed when I discovered different range of papers available. Some of the papers needed to be knead in order to increase their flexibility while others needed heating before they can be curled for use.
Sometimes I have to paint the papers that you would desire colours before drying them she said not gaining a lot of experience took much time than she expected.
With the experience of Gotham I cannot quickly determine which paper suit a specific project to achieve along lasting effects
The paper florist now uses a mix of recycled and imported florist paper that can be dyed and curled, or even ironed, straightened, creased, or stretched.
"I make flowers that can withstand water using special foam paper from other countries. I also use silk to create big flowers. I recycle paper that's easy to shape, especially for making curved petals. But I don't use the paper you usually write or draw on. The paper I use is special and meant to make flowers that last a long time."
Guwira gets her ideas from real flowers and studies them carefully. She watches how they grow, how many petals they have, the center part, the stem, and the leaves.
For example, with a rose, I take off one petal at a time until I get to the middle. Then I copy the petal shapes onto paper to make templates for our paper flowers. I have templates for different kinds of flowers like classic roses, garden roses, hydrangeas, sunflowers, gladiolus, lilies, peonies, and more. I keep adding to the list because there are more than 1,000 types of flowers and plants. Once we copy the template onto the paper, we cut the paper and create the paper flowers, petal by petal.
It's a calming process, and what's special about paper flowers is that no two roses look exactly the same. There's no right or wrong way to put the petals together, as long as they're organized. After all, even Mother Nature doesn't always make things the same way," she said.
Guwira calls her project "Helia Paper Flowers," which is a reference to the sun, its glow, and the beauty of the sunrise.
She still faces a challenge in getting people to like paper flowers and pay her fairly for her work. Her paper creations usually cost around $60.
"Paper flowers are new, and many people are used to real flowers. So, I've tried different ways to help people understand and appreciate paper flowers. Many think we use regular paper for writing and drawing. They might say it's too expensive for paper. Also, it's hard to find a place to keep the big flowers. Right now, I'm working from my mom's living room," she explained.
When she has big orders, Guwira hires part-time helpers to cut and put the flowers together. But because orders are sometimes unpredictable, she can't afford to rent a workspace.
"I'm still using my mom's living room because when I calculated taxes and rent, which is between $450 and $600, it made more sense to stay at home for now.
Our biggest challenge is finding a place to keep the big flowers. Right now, we hang them on walls, or we fold the petals and store them in boxes. When we want to use them, we open the petals and shape them again."
Guwira makes flowers for all kinds of customers, like event planners, designers, balloon artists, companies, individuals, and religious groups. She shows her products on social media and through WhatsApp, and she delivers orders to customers.
"I really like her creations; they last longer than the event and make the memories better. The flowers are like a way for our inner selves to come out; they really speak to you," said Charlotte Tudhe Mutambara, a customer who often orders from her.
"Tariro is really creative and has a gift for making paper flowers that look just like real ones. Last year, when I was in the USA, I ordered two bouquets for Mother's Day. Her paper flowers are amazing, timeless, and they're a great gift that lasts for those special people in our lives," said Fadzai Lynette Masiya, another customer.
Guwira thinks people should consider paper flowers because they have lots of advantages, especially for the environment.
"Paper flowers can look just like real ones but last longer. They're available all year, they don't cause allergies, they don't need water or sunlight to bloom, and you can use them again. Most importantly, they're good for the environment because they don't need to be replaced every day," she said.
[Story/Photo Credit: Mandy Kanyemba for bird story agency]